Sunday, September 26, 2010

Muddy Buddies

  This week, I'm heading over to Jonesborough for a special event at the National Storytelling Festival, the Ghost Stories concert.  Jonesborough has the distinction of being Tennessee's oldest town, formed even before statehood.  It's a lovely small town with many historic sites, and of course, storytelling.  The weekend of the festival, this little place bursts at its seams, literally.  Quaint and unique shops have lines out the door, and the ice cream parlor is packed tighter than a scoop in a cone.  A few co-workers and I have a tradition of trekking over for the ghost stories.  Outside, around the gazebo where the tellers take the stage, we huddle under our blankets and share snacks.  Last year, I brought the ubiquitious Muddy Buddies, or probably better known in some parts as Puppy Chow - a sweet Chex® Mix with peanut butter and chocolate.

Muddy Buddies
Serves 18

9 cups of Rice, Corn, or Chocolate Chex® - any combination of the three
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

  First off, pour the cereal into a large bowl; set aside.

  In a small microwave safe mixing bowl, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter.  Microwave on high for 1 minute, and stir.  Microwave for an additional 30-40 seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Stir in the vanilla.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal and stir until everything is evenly coated.

  Pour the chocolate coated cereal into a large (2 gallon) resealable plastic bag.  Pour in confectioner's sugar.  Seal and shake until the cereal is well coated.

  Spread it all out onto waxed paper to cool.  Then store the mix in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Notes: If you'd like to find out more about where I'm heading, check out these links:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I know, it's almost the Autumn Equinox, and I'm posting another ice cream recipe.  But, it's peanut butter!  Gooey, rich, comforting, and that's what we look for in fall food.  I came across this recipe in The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook, written by Peggy Fallon.  This ice cream is a rich custard based dessert.  Custard bases have eggs, but they are cooked, giving it a creamy, rich texture.  The taste is very reminiscent of those peanut butter balls your grandmother makes at Christmas, or if you've ever enjoyed a peanut butter shake down at Sonic. 

Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup creamy peanut butter
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  Begin by combining the cream, milk, and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot, about 6-8 minutes.

  Add the peanut butter in large spoonfuls, mixing well after each spoonful, until the peanut butter is melted and everything is smooth.

  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in 1 cup of the peanut butter mix. Add the egg mixture back into the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook and stir until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take around 5 to 10 minutes. Take care not to boil or the egg will curdle.

  Strain the custard base into a bowl and let it cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Stir in the vanilla extract, cover, and refrigerated for at least 6 hours. (The base will keep for 3 days in the fridge.)

  Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to your maker's directions. Transfer to a covered container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.  This additional freeze time is called ripening and does a lot for the flavor and texture.

Notes: This recipe is very forgiving.  Usually for homemade ice cream, you'll want to use whole milk for the fat content.  But this recipe, I used skim milk since I was already using heavy cream, and I forgot to pick up whole milk while I was at the store.  (Hey, at least I'm honest.)  The peanut butter was another total happy accident.  I grabbed whipped creamy peanut butter, which was 1/3 less sugar, and it still came out exquisitely rich with no adjustments to the sugar.  But you should know that Ms. Fallon says to use only commercial peanut butter and not the natural kind you can grind yourself, because it will separate in your ice cream.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

There is something so utterly satisfying about flipping a still hot skillet and a round of cornbread cleanly falling away onto a plate.  Tonight's supper was pot roast and this cornbread.  A little bit southern (buttermilk and cast iron), a little bit northern (yellow cornmeal and a tad of sugar), The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon features this recipe.

Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread
Makes 8 wedges

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, stone ground preferred
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons butter

  Start off by preheating your oven to 375°F.

  Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  If you don't have a sifter, you can do this in a food processor, or fluff and mix everything gently with a fork.

  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and baking soda.  Add in the sugar, egg, and oil, taking care to whisk everything together evenly.

  Over medium heat, melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  When the butter has melted completely, swirl it around, completely coating the bottom and up around the sides.  Once the skillet is ready, pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients.  Mix everything up with as few strokes as possible, and scrape into the hot skillet.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Let the bread cool a few minutes, flip onto a plate and slice into wedges.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hot Spinach Dip

  It's football time!  Cooler days ahead, and lots of time hanging out with friends.  Today I'm going to share one of the very first entertaining recipes I learned, shortly after getting married.  It's absolutely quick, easy, makes good use of the microwave, and tasty, to boot.  Every time I make it, there's a flurry of tortilla chips diving into the bowl.  This recipe originates from Desperation Entertaining by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. 

Hot Spinach Dip

1 package (9 or 10 oz) frozen creamed spinach, Stouffer's preferred
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Tortilla chips, for serving

  Start off by cutting a small slit in the top of the creamed spinach bag and lay it on a microwave-safe plate.  Microwave the spinach on high until it's thawed, about 2 minutes.

  Open up the spinach and pour it into a microwave-safe bowl.  Add in all the other ingredients and stir until the cream cheese is pretty well incorporated.  You'll still have some lumps, and that is perfectly fine.  Microwave the dip, uncovered, on high, until it gets bubbly - 5 minutes.  Stop it halfway through the 5 minutes to give it a good stir.  Serve at once with tortilla chips.

Notes: Normally I don't detect much difference in brands of ingredients, but this is a case where the brand makes a difference in the outcome of the recipe.  I really suggest trying to find the Stouffer's creamed spinach for this dip.  It gives it a decadent richness that other brands just don't give - if you can't find Stouffer's, feel free to sub, but if you can find it, use that creamed spinach.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Howdy, folks

Eating Labor Day leftovers.  So, not done much new in the kitchen department, but one of my bestest friends brought me a 4 pound zuke.  My DH swears I brought home a pod person, or possibly the cat's cousin.  It is HUGE.  And I'm the only person in the house that likes zucchini, so gotta play this carefully.  Current grinchy plans include lopping off a pound for zucchini cakes and stuffing the rest of that bad boy with a ground beef mixture and baking.

Another thing I've been doing somewhat regularly this past three weeks is planning meals and shopping accordingly.  I know, I know.  This sounds like a habit of an organized, and somewhat sane person - totally not me.  Suppose I'm off to start thinking ahead and reading the sale papers.  I'll be back soon with something new.